Award-winning WPR host helps people harness their voices

Veronica Rueckert, an award-winning Wisconsin Public Radio radio host, is helping people harness the power of their voices to take control of how they present themselves.

Through her Madison-based company, Veronica Rueckert Coaching, she is working with people who want to train their speaking voices for professional settings, as well as for everyday life. She works with TED presenters, lawyers, executives, teachers and even religious leaders.

She emphasizes confidence and self-expression in her coaching — which she does on an individual basis — and also in workshops she leads.

“Your voice is an instrument,” she said at a recent meeting of the national entrepreneurship group 1 Million Cups in Madison. “The thing is, we don’t know how to play it.”

She calls voices “the true expressions of who we are — our power, our potential.”

“I’ve had people say to me literally that they feel like there’s a lion inside of them, but they can’t get the lion out,” she said. “They feel themselves to be confident, and capable, and the possessor of enthralling, persuasive stories, but they cannot tell these stories, and their voice will not allow them to be a conduit to tell these stories. And so, I try to step into that equation and fix that.”

Rueckert focuses on storytelling as a medium for public speech, covering things like narrative arc and story structure, as well as voice mastery through breath control and other techniques.

She is a Peabody Award-winning co-host and producer of the WPR news program “Central Time,” and worked as a senior producer and contributor on the nationally distributed program “To The Best of Our Knowledge.” She also holds a degree in vocal performance, and at one point trained to be an opera singer.

Her workshops touch on issues of societal inequality, with an upcoming event called “Speaking While Female.” This workshop, to be held today, will help attendees “tap into the strength of your authentic voice,” according to Rueckert’s website. She will instruct on body posture, breath control exercises and how emotion connects to public speaking.

In her presentation at the downtown Madison Public Library, she pointed to current research that suggests women executives speak less at work than men do. And when they do speak more frequently than men, they are perceived as less competent.

Conversely, the same research shows men who speak more frequently in the workplace are perceived as more competent, she said.

“When we get together, we talk about closing the wage gap, bringing more women CEOs into corner offices, when we talk about parity in politics — I think we have to start talking about why women aren’t using their vocal real estate as much as men are,” she said.

Rueckert says her dream is to devote all her time to growing this business, which to her feels more like a vocation.

“I would love this to be kind of a movement; I would love this to catch fire, especially this idea about thinking of your voice as an instrument, learning how to use it, and especially for all of us to own our own stories, to recognize them for the value that they are,” she said. “They are the gold currency of our time.”

–By Alex Moe